Horse World Language For Dummies

Basically, it has been suggested that I write an entry for those of you who are not the most horse-savvy people on the planet. I thought that this was a great idea, so I am going to jump right in! I will compile a list of confusing or unknown words and phrases that a non-horse person would not know, and I will add to it as I encounter words/phrases that would make good additions.

Illustrations are going to be added throughout the year.

Basic anatomy of a horse:


Bit: A bit is a device that is placed into the horse’s mouth and typically uses tongue and bar pressure to control the collection, direction, and “brakes” of the horse. It is commonly assumed that the bit alone is used for steering and speed, but this is not the case. The rider also uses her legs and seat to cue the horse where to go and how to get there. There are many different types and names of bits, so for now I will stick with the one I will be using for training:


Leg aides: When the rider uses pressure from her legs to direct the horse, refine collection, and control speed.

Inside leg: The leg farthest away from the fence (if the fence is on the left, your inside leg is your right leg).

Outside leg: The leg closest to the fence (if the fence is on the left, your outside leg is your left leg).

Collection: When a horse is carrying more weight on his hind end rather than his front, relying on his back legs to drive him forward instead of his front end. He utilizes his belly muscles and rounds his back, making it easier for him to carry himself properly, especially with a rider on his back. This causes him to be almost coiled like a spring, allowing for better propulsion. It is also safer for him, as carrying too much weight on his front legs is dangerous. A horse naturally carries more weight on his front end, so having a rider who rides him with extra weight on his front end causes an imbalance and undue stress on his legs.

Frame: The head-carriage of a horse when being ridden, typically being held in place by the rider’s hands.

Bridle: The device placed onto a horse’s head, onto which the bit and reins are attached.

Saddle: The “seat” that is placed onto the horse’s back and used for a more comfortable ride (bareback hurts after a while). The saddle also helps to distribute the rider’s weight more evenly on the horse’s back. A saddle must be fit properly to the horse’s back. There are five kinds of saddles:

1) English – used for the English discipline, which includes fox hunting, hunter/jumping, dressage, English pleasure, hunt seat equitation, polo, hacking (English version of a trail ride, basically).


2) Western – used for the Western discipline, including barrel racing, cutting, reining, Western pleasure, trail riding, pole bending, roping, team penning, ranch work. partofwesternsaddle

3) Australian – “The Australian saddle is, quite simply, a BIG DRESSAGE SADDLE. The stirrups hang in a dressage position, and they are free swinging.” Uses – trail riding, ranch work.-


4) Gaited – used for the Gaited Discipline: horses that gait (will be defined later 🙂 ), gaited showing. crates-gaited-saddle1

5) Treeless – A saddle built with no tree (the skeleton that gives the saddle its structure). Why treeless? Why treed?

Information about saddle fit, courtesy of Wintec! :

Saddle pad: The pad that is placed onto the horse’s back before the saddle is put on. It helps to protect the horse’s back from getting sore and it helps to even the distribution of weight.

Stirrups: Where the rider places her feet in order to have a steadier position.

Reins: Two leather (typically, some are rubber or cotton) straps that the rider holds in order to have contact with the bit while in the saddle.

Tack: The general term used to describe any piece of riding equipment used on a horse, such as: saddle, bridle, saddle pad, bit, martingale, breastcollar, etc.

Lead: When a horse is in a canter or gallop, he extends his lead leg further than the others. His lead leg is whichever leg hits the ground first. Many people think that lead is only seen through the front legs, but a horse also has a lead hind leg. Being on the correct lead helps him keep his balance and regulates the strain placed on all four of his legs. It gives him a pivot point going around turns instead of straining his outside legs in order to stay balanced.

Lead change: A lead change is a maneuver that all horses know how to do, usually. However, under saddle, a horse must be taught the cues. When a horse is asked to change his lead, the pressure is equalised for a moment (equal pressure from the rider’s legs and hands) before switching to the outside leg and inside rein. The horse should recognise this as the cue for a lead change and, in midair, switch which of his legs hit the ground first. I drew an illustration to demonstrate this. I think I went a little crazy with colouring it. I was using new brushes in CS5. 🙂 Fun times. lead changes


EDIT: It is now 2014. April 10th, to be exact. For your equine education, and for my convenience, I will paste links to various websites that list equestrian terms. 🙂

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